Belfast Telegraph

Bangor manager Hugh Sinclair speaks out about how God helped him overcome troubled youth

Bangor FC boss Hugh Sinclair has spoken about his journey to football management from a youth which saw him shot twice by loyalist paramilitaries and jailed for possession of a handgun.

Speaking on the BBC's The Sunday News programme, he described growing up in the Shankill and how discovering God led him away from a life of drug use.

"For me it was identity. It was very much identity," he said, speaking about how he came to be involved with paramilitaries.

"Looking back I was searching for role models up until that point in time. Teachers who would have taken me in primary school for a game of badminton... or athletics or running. I would have really looked up to them.

"When I was taken out of that arena of school, unfortunately then the role models I was going to see were other people struggling with identity issues too."

At the age of 18 he was arrested and jailed for possession of a handgun and sent to Rathgael Young Offenders Centre to await trial.

"When I went in jail to me was probably Stir Crazy, the film with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor," he said.

"But I soon got a nasty wake-up call that it wasn’t humour and it wasn’t fun. I got bail three or four weeks later, because of my circumstances and because of alcohol."

He was later sentenced to two years and 11 months at Hydebank Young Offenders Centre.

Being inside, Hugh said, allowed him to establish some order in his life.

"In a sense I got some of my life back as a boy," he said.

"I had such liberty and such freedom in a sense. Even when I was in Rathgael, and especially in Hydebank because I never got any parole. I done the allotted time. Because I was protected from alcohol, and I was protected from drink or drugs at that time.

"I was able to pour myself into things positively, in training, and running and playing football.

"In a sense I absolutely loved it."

His time in Hydebank also saw him mixing with Protestant and Catholic inmates.

"Because there was no segregation in Hydebank and so of the guys I had to get on with were Catholic. And to get on well with them on the football field and to get on well with them in the landing," he said.

Hugh, who is now 50, said it was in 1993 while on the way home from a "turbulent night" that he realised it was "God arresting me and questioning me, and shining his light of truth within me".

Appointed manager of Bangor FC in June, he said it was both "the biggest club" and "the biggest challenge" he had been associated with as a manager.

"There are a number of things there which have attracted me. But knowing that God is in it with me also, as I have often said. It is not just about the goal, it is about the soul," he said.

Bangor FC currently compete in the Ballymena & Provincial Football League and on Saturday beat Newtowne 5-1 at home.

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